I recently learned of Dr. Eric Goodman’s work through his TED presentation and was excited about the simplicity and elegance of his approach to exercise — an innovative method called Foundation Training, which he developed while in school to become a chiropractor to treat his own chronic low back pain.
He now teaches classes and seminars on this method — co-created with Peter Park, a world-class professional athlete trainer. Foundation Training exercises are designed to help your body be the strongest it can be and move the way nature intended. Many professional and Olympic athletes use and are big fans of his work.
Exercise has been one of my passions for almost 45 years now. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to go to medical school in the first place, as I intended to use exercise as a therapeutic modality to improve people’s health. I eventually shifted more toward the nutritional component, because I realized nutrition is really crucial. But you really cannot be optimally healthy without exercise.
What is Foundation Training?
Foundation Training was birthed through necessity, as Dr. Goodman began suffering repetitive back problems while still in his mid-20’s.
“I had a blown out L4-L5 and L5-S1, and was told at 25 years old, ‘Eric, you need to get surgery’… It just wasn’t an option,” he says. “I was in chiropractic school. I really understood the body well. I decided that this is going to become an obsession. I’m going to figure this out. I can’t become a doctor, have patients come to me that are asking for my advice on an injury that I have that I can’t fix. It’s not okay.
So, over the course of about four years, I did that. I became very obsessed. I used my anatomy knowledge. I used my understanding of exercise. I was a personal trainer actually long before a chiropractor. Foundation Training is what I came up with. It’s what I do for myself every single day, and it’s what I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate to teach to thousands of people at this point.”
Foundation Training is all about your core. As Dr. Goodman explains, your core is anything that connects to your pelvis, whether above or below it, and this includes your hamstrings, glutes, and adductor muscles. Foundation Training teaches all those muscles to work together through integrated chains of movement, which is how you’re structurally designed to move, as opposed to compartmentalized movements like crunches.
Key Basic Exercise: “The Founder”
“My primary exercise – the Founder – the one that everybody has to learn… is an integrated movement. We take your entire posterior chain of muscles and we pull them together,” Dr. Goodman explains.
“Every exercise in Foundation Training adds as many muscles into a given movement as possible, dispersing more force throughout your body, taking friction away from your joints and putting that tension into your muscles instead. It’s basically the answer to a very plaguing question for people, which is, ‘I sit all day long. I drive my car all day long. I look at my phone all day long. I watch TV.’ Your shoulders are just continuously going further [forward]. Your head is falling further forward. Your hip flexors and your abdomen are shortening.
Every exercise that I teach lengthens the front of your body, the over-tightened, over-shortened muscles in your body; strengthens and lengthens the back of your body; puts it to its effective lengths; stands you tall; and allows your body to move as a human animal is designed to move – very powerfully, very gracefully, and with a lot of flexibility.”
“The Founder” helps reinforce proper movement while strengthening the entire back of your body by dispersing your weight through the posterior chains. As a result, your weight shifts back toward your heels and “untucks” your pelvis. By doing so, you lengthen your hip flexors, gaining length at the front of your body.
“In doing that, you teach your hips to hinge properly with a nice, long and strong front; you’re keeping the sternum high, keeping the chest high,” he says. “The place to start is learning how to hinge effectively. Learning how your hamstrings, lower back, and glutes are designed to stretch together. Once that part is in place, you can then advance to all the exercises that build upon that foundation, that build upon that first exercise.”
The Founder is an excellent exercise that can help reverse the effects of frequent and prolonged sitting. While sitting down is not the only thing that can cause trouble (adopting any particular posture for long periods of time can slow down your circulatory system), sitting is one of the most pervasive postures in modern civilizations.
Relearning Proper Posture is Essential for Virtually Everyone
According to Dr. Goodman, the more frequently you do The Founder exercise, the easier it will be for you to get into the progressive positions that follow.
“The only reason that I’ve focused so heavily on the posterior chain is our modern lifestyles,” Dr. Goodman says. “It’s not that these are more important muscles. It’s that our modern lifestyles have pulled us out of [proper alignment and movement]. Our glutes, hamstrings, and lower back, they don’t work as they’re designed to anymore. They’re a team… [but] we’ve separated them, and… they’re not able to function properly until they connect again. So we teach basic, postural, support, strength – all of these things beginning at the posterior chain, beginning with those integrative muscles.”
The following exercise: “Adductor Assisted Back Extension,” is another exercise that will teach you how to properly extend your spine.
Breathing Also Affects Your Posture
Breathing is another important tool that is unfortunately ignored by most people. In the interview, Dr. Goodman demonstrates structural breathing, which will help improve your posture, especially while seated. He also demonstrates how to do this in his TED talk below. Here’s a summary:
Sitting down, place your thumbs at the base of your rib cage, pinkies at your waist. Think of the space between your fingers as a measuring stick
Pull your chin back and take three deep breaths
As you breathe in, the distance between your thumbs and pinkies should increase
As you breathe out, tighten your abdominal muscles to prevent your core from collapsing back down
When done properly, your breath will help lengthen your hip flexors, and then support your core using your transverse abdominal muscles. This will strengthen your back and keep your chest high and open. Do this exercise for 30 seconds or so, then go back to your normal seated position. With time, those muscles will get stronger, and your seated posture will gradually improve.
To Improve Your Core, Strengthen these Muscles
According to Dr. Goodman, “When it comes to your core, ‘It’s all in the hips, baby.’”
Every muscle that directly connects to your pelvis should be considered a piece of your core. Your athletic ability, flexibility, balance and strength are all dependent on powerful hips. To accomplish that, Dr. Goodman recommends strengthening the following muscles using the Foundation Training Program:
Glutes: These are the powerhouses of your body. They do not work alone.
Adductors (Inner thigh muscles) are your built in traction system. When the adductor group of muscles remains strong you have increased in hip stability, stronger arches in the feet, and a pelvic brace using a couple of the strongest muscles in your body.
Your deep lower back muscles facilitate the proper integration of the Posterior Chain of Muscles. Simply put, a weak lower back changes every aspect of your movement patterns for the worse.
Your abdomen and hip flexors: Think of the front of your body as a window that shows what is happening at the spine and pelvis. If the front is always too tight, the back is not working properly.
The Transverse Abdominal muscle: A built in bracing system. When the transverse abdominus is tightened against the other muscles among this core group, the entire system becomes stronger
The basic Foundation Training program takes about 20 minutes, and is ideally done daily.
“If you have an existing program, just put it aside for two weeks and see what happens when you do this one for 20 minutes. Then go into the intermediate, which is about 35 minutes… You’re still doing the basic five exercises, and then we add two more into it.”
You can purchase the Foundation Training DVD from my online store. FoundationTraining.com also offers free videos you can peruse, and the companion book available called: Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence.
“It’s a really good book, as far as understanding why you have back pain, and applying 10 exercises to fix it, just going through that process,” Dr. Goodman says. “Even some of the feedback we’ve gotten from a lot of people who even just reading the aspect of why they have back pain stops them from doing the things that cause it, which in amount itself is enough to stop back pain in many, many people.”